A look at the strange - or unconventional - ways of the world

The ways of the world are strange and their portrayal in tales around a warm fireside on a cold winter’s night tend to lend fascination to the listeners.

However there is nothing more entertaining than listening to the tales of what other folk get up to and their eccentricities are the stuff of legends. But, pause for a moment, what is eccentricity? as what is considered eccentric to some may seem quite normal to others. The dictionary terms eccentric as being ‘Odd or unconventional’ but who is there who can stand objectively aside and define what is unconventional as we all have some strange habits.. Having confused you all let us consider some tales that have been told about unusual eccentricities of our forebears.

Dr. George Fordyce (1736-1802) was an Edinburgh man who made his name in London where he was considered to be an excellent physician, if a little eccentric. He had a strict routine to life calling daily at Dolly’s Chophouse at 4pm. where he digested one and a half pounds of rump steak often along with half a chicken. This was followed by a tankard of ale plus a bottle of port and a large glass of brandy. After leaving Dolly’s Chophouse he went to three coffee houses where he would partake of coffee and brandy at each before wandering home somewhat a little under the influence of drink.

He was called out one night to a lady who had unexpectedly taken ill and the doctor being well under the influence was unable to locate the lady’s pulse. He cursed himself muttering ‘Drunk by jove’ naturally meaning himself and to cover the situation wrote the patient a harmless medicine. The next day he received a note from the lady confessing his diagnoses as being correct and enclosing £100 in thanks for his silence..

As you can appreciate this lifestyle is not to be recommended and the doctor died of gout at the age of sixty six not a bad age in those times, but one can consider that he lived a very satisfying life earning sufficient funds to keep him in this very expensive lifestyle.

Another eccentric was Edinburgh judge Lord Gardenstone (1721-1793) who had a pet piglet which he was so fond of that he let it share his bed at night. One can only assume that he did not have a wife, but naturally the pig eventually got too large for the bed but was allowed to continue to share the judge’s bedroom sleeping on the judge’s clothes. The judge was heard to remark how pleasant it was to put warm clothes on in the morning. Was that being eccentric or just a little unconventional?